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There is one more chapter in the story of Gander, the heroic mascot of the Royal Rifles of Canada and that is the formal presentation of the Dickin Medal, aka the animal’s Victoria Cross. After all the media hoopla around the world surrounding the initial announcement of this award, I feared that the actual awarding of the medal would be a non-event. Fortunately my worries were unfounded and a big deal was indeed made of the presentation.

The ceremony was held at noon on Friday, October 27, 2000 at the official residence of the British High Commissioner, his Excellency Sir Andrew Burns. Organizations represented at this affair included The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA), the Hong Kong Veteran’s Association of Canada, the Canadian War Museum and the Hong Kong Veterans Commemorative Association. Representing Newfs was Ch. Marcarpents Rimshot. Rimshot lives with Marc and Nina Cote of Bainsville, Ontario. Also in attendance was Tom McLean, President of the South Eastern Ontario Region of the Newfoundland Dog Club of Canada, and his wife, Margot. The War Museum supplied a re-enactor in the uniform and equipment of a Canadian soldier in 1941 Hong Kong.

The presentation was made by General Sir Roland Guy, past Chairman of the PDSA, to Rifleman Frederick Kelly, Gander’s handler. After this presentation, Mr. Philip Doddridge, vice-President of Hong Kong Veteran’s Association presented the medal to Mr. Joe Geurts, Director of the Canadian War Museum. The medal is now on display as part of the permanent Hong Kong exhibition in the Museum.

The citation reads:

On 3 documented occasions, Gander, the Newfoundland mascot of the Royal Rifles of Canada, engaged the enemy as his regiment joined the Winnipeg Grenadiers, members of Battalion Headquarters ‘C’ Force and other Commonwealth troops in their courageous defence of the Island. Twice Gander’s attacks halted the enemy’s advance and protected groups of wounded soldiers. In a final act of bravery the war dog was killed in action gathering a grenade. Without Gander’s intervention many more lives would have been lost in the assault.

Gander not only served his buddies well in 1941, but is doing it still as evidenced by the concluding remark in the press release:

Canadian history has perhaps not always been kind or reflective of the true portent of the events that befell the Hong Kong regiments. Their struggle for recognition has been a long one. It is perhaps fitting that their fight and sacrifice should at last be brought to significant prominence by their very own mascot, Gander. Hopefully the story of Gander and his brave and selfless act in order to save his friends will help to keep alive the memory of those brave Canadian soldiers who, long ago and far away, ‘…gave their yesterday for our tomorrow…

Peter Maniate has been writing columns for the Newf News, the magazine of the Newfoundland Dog Club of Canada, since 1979.  In 1996 he started writing a Newfoundland dog column in the Breedlines section of Dogs in Canada magazine on behalf of the Newfoundland Dog Club of Canada.  When Dogs in Canada ceased publication at the end of 2011 he continued the Breedlines column in the Newf Newfs.

Permission is granted for re-publication of the preceding article or excerpts from it as long as the author is credited and the name of the original publication and date of first publication is included.

Dogs in Canada

February 2001